Jessica Ridgeway:  What Now?

Jessica Ridgeway: What Now?

After you have children, any news stories about kids being hurt or endangered hits close to home.  But this story, the Jessica Ridgeway story, hits so close to home it’s made it inside the front door.

  • Jessica is 10.  My daughter is 10.
  • Jessica’s elementary school is 5 miles from my house.
  • The park where they recently found a body is even closer.
  • Her classmate is on my daughter’s soccer team.

Breaking News

To be honest, when I first heard the story I didn’t really feel it.  Don’t get me wrong, I felt the normal oh, that’s too bad feeling, but I didn’t feel it.  I assumed her Dad took her.  It happens more often than you think in families, but after a few days that possibility was ruled out.

child abduction jessica

Wanting to Protect

My first reaction wasn’t to protect my kids, in fact I didn’t think of changing my behavior at all.  Then I saw the reactions of my friends and I felt guilty.  The mom guilt kicked in and I started second guessing myself.  Maybe I should learn from this and do something to protect my kids from predators.

But, the thing is, there’s nothing I would have done differently than Jessica’s mom did.  Her daughter was 10.  She allowed her daughter to walk a couple of blocks to school with her friends.  Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  In fact, I let my kids walk to the bus stop and don’t think twice about it.  Would I torture myself by rethinking that decision over and over if it were my child that had been taken?  Of course.  But the question I’m facing now is whether I should rethink how I’m raising my kids when it wasn’t them.

Should I change because of Jessica? or Shouldn’t I?

Parenting in my Head

Rationally I realize that I can’t protect them from a predator.  Not really.

If someone is intent on taking one of my children they will be able to find a way.  There will be a moment when I look away to take a call or they are on the other side of the soccer field at practice or are asleep in their beds, when they could be taken if someone is intent on doing so.  The only way I could keep them completely protected would be with round the clock security and bodyguards, which I can’t afford.

My mind knows that I can’t control this.  I can’t protect them from every ill that could befall them during their lives.  I can’t predict if a car is going to drive into their ballet studio, if a hitherto unknown disease will come through their school, or if a stranger will take them.  I can’t predict the random things that could take them from me, so logically I know I shouldn’t change my behavior in reaction to such an unlikely event as a kidnapping.

Parenting with my Heart

But that’s my mind.  I am finally feeling this.  The numbness of media desensitization is gone, the protective bubble of distance has been popped.  I’m looking at Jessica’s picture and substitute my children’s faces.

first day of school

My heart wants to know that I’m doing everything I can to make sure this is not my child.  My heart wants to protect them and mama bear them, maybe even implant a GPS tracker – just kidding (sort of).


While my mind and my heart are at odds, there is one thing that they agree upon.

  1. Our schools have sent notices to parents about multiple attempts by strangers to lure children to their cars.  That person or people are still out there and were in my neighborhood at one point.  Who’s to say they aren’t still here?  On top of that a child has been taken, it is no longer just a notice via email.  It has happened.

This is tangible evidence that there is an immediate danger in close proximity to my children.  This is not three states away.  It is right next door.  These are warnings I should heed.  I can’t stick my head in the sand and comfort myself with statistics.

So, to listen to both my head and my heart:

  1. I will make sure they aren’t outside alone, but I’m not going to cancel playdates for fear the other parent won’t watch them closely enough.
  2. I will double check the locks at night, but I won’t make them stop playing soccer.
  3. I will teach them independence in the house and through responsibility, but will not be letting them ride their bikes 2 miles to the library alone.

For now this is my balance, my attempt to control the uncontrollable.

Do you think I’m reacting too much?  Or not enough? 

More Posts about Jessica:

The Sad and Gut-Wrenching Case of Jessica Ridgeway by Lenore Skenazy

Jessica Ridgeway:  When the Answers Just Aren’t There on Denver Parent

20 Responses to Jessica Ridgeway: What Now?

  1. I must say, you disgust me. Get off your pedestal and cut the holier-than-thou bull crap. I’m a mom, also, and I too would do things differently, but I’m not about to preach about it. How dare you criticisize this mother during the most horrifying and painful time in her life. That is called adding insult to injury. You might be a good, cautious mother, but you are am lousy, inconsiderate human being to use a public forum to disgrace a mother who will probably beat herself up over this for the rest of your life. As much as you care for your children, make sure you don’t pass along this cruel and critical attitude to them.

    • Jen, I reread the post in response to your comment because I thought that I had conveyed pretty clearly that I don’t think Jessica’s mom did ANYTHING wrong. She did nothing that I wouldn’t do or that I haven’t done. I did find the sentence that I think threw you off, the tone in my head was different than perhaps it read to someone else, so I changed it. I’d love your feedback on if it fixes the impression that I’m criticizing her mother in any way.

    • Jen,
      I don’t see where she criticized the mother at all. She said she would have done the same. She in fact said that she does the same as the mother without thinking twice. I felt she was giving the mother her sympathy in wondering how she is feeling.
      And don’t you think your comment is a bit of calling the kettle black? Are you not doing to Daria EXACTLY what you are accusing her of doing to Jessica’s mom?

  2. I’m right there with you – it’s heart-wrenching to think we can’t totally protect our kids. Mine was apart from me for 5 days and I’m so happy to have her home I feel like I’m going to squish the stuffing out of her. I don’t think we can help but be overprotective for a while. (or forever?)

  3. Oh, and Jen, I’m wondering if you read past the headline.

    “Cautious” wasn’t a word Daria used to describe herself. “Independent” was. And did you see this?

    “But, the thing is, there’s nothing I would have done differently than Jessica’s mom did.”

  4. I have felt this same way, Daria. I think about our daily routines, what I could do differently, what do I do wrong. That split second is all it takes. But you are right, we can tweak things a bit, but we can’t stop letting our children live. But I am going to be a bit more protective, too. There is just more and more bad news, every day.

  5. I loved your post Daria. I am struggling with what do I do now that this has happened. I like you don’t think this mom did anything wrong. She did nothing different than I do by letting my kids walk to school. There is no difference to me if she was asleep through the call or if she was in the shower and just missed it or had her ringer down by accident. My heart breaks for her and Jessica and their entire family.
    I do know that for now we have made changes. There is no more walking to school right now, not until the person that did this is found.

  6. I think this is fantastic Daria. And honestly I feel like I have been the same. Yes, the circumstances have made me talk about things more with my kids, but the last thing on this earth that I want to do is scare the crap out of my kids and rob them of their childhood. So I will make these little subtle changes on my own – without mentioning them to my kids. Oh and pray to God over them for their protection.

  7. I was thrown by the title of this post. I wonder if Jen was, too. It’s hard to find a balance between feeling like we’re keeping our kids safe and feeling like we’re smothering them. After all, our kids are going to grow up. They need to be able to function in the world away from our watchful eye.

  8. Talk to your kids to react in a certain situations (not that Jessica didn’t fight :( However, I must say it should be taught to them frequently. After telling my daughter never go up to a car because someone is ‘looking for a puppy’ or ‘needs directions’ ~ cut to 6 months later ~ her and her friend come into the house saying how a man and woman pulled up to our driveway asking for directions, but her and her friend couldn’t help them (sigh). Who WERE these people? Really? Asking 8 yr olds for directions? Hoping for the best too for Jessica, but got a gut wrenching feeling.

  9. Very good point Nancy. We’ve definitely been having those conversations, but you’re right – they need to be repeated. While my kids can remember to the nth degree how many more presents or privileges their siblings receive than they do, the important stuff doesn’t seem to stick without repetition…

    I asked them the same thing “What do you do if a stranger asks you to help them find their dog? Both kids “Help him.” (sigh)

  10. Daria, very well stated (I did not take this at all as being preachy or unfeeling toward Jessica’s mom). On the contrary I took it as being very empathetic.

    I too find it hard to find the correct balance as I believe most parents do. Between letting our kids grow up and finding their way and at the same time trying to protect them is a tough balancing act.

    I also agree with Nancy in that you need to teach your kids over and over about situational preparedness. I am sure many of us do teach our kids and I also know it could be but one minor mistake (trying to be helpful) that could change our lives completely. We need to teach our kids just how wonderful the world can be, but at the same time be careful, be smart and think.

    I feel for Jessica and her family and hope for the best.

  11. I’m a couple hours away, but it still hit too close to home. All week I wanted to just keep my daughter home, but I sent her off to school every day. But like always, I watched her like a hawk from my front window as she waited for her bus, I was out front waiting for her every day when she got off the bus…except one day when I did go pick her up. And I did have a talk with her about strangers…again.

    • All I can hope is they catch him quickly. My son just asked if the front door was locked and if I would drive him to the bus stop from now on because he’s scared. So sad and scary for everyone.

  12. Daria,
    I am doing the same and telling my children that I live them and hug them tight.
    I also went over the updated stranger safety guidelines. And re-established our code word for pick ups.

    • Code word – forgot about that Heather – really great tip. I’m still processing that the body was Jessica. I kept holding out hope I suppose that against all odds it would work out alright, after all, that’s how it works on TV. I have no idea how to answer my daughter’s questions about how she died or why it took so long to know it was Jessica. How do I tell a 10 year old that this little girl’s body was in pieces? I can’t. Hoping some of the support resources have good answers for how and what to share with our kids.

  13. I feel for the parents, in this geographic area. I feel more for your kids, as Daria has stated, the fear is creeping into the children. That should never happen. Kids should not be scared of their community.

    You have to remember, that it is easy to keep our kids, am a dad of two daughters, perfectly safe. Keep them in, and never let them out of our sight. In doing so we fail as parents, because we are not living up to our main responsibility. Preparing them for life. They are only chilren for what 16 to 18 years? Unless they are my girls who were 11 going on 35. So we protect them for 18 years, only to have them live unprepared for the last 50 to 80 years of their lives.
    Being overprotective of our kids, is more about our own selfish needs, than those of our children.

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